Africa Daily Insight

Muslim Pilgrims Ascend Mount Arafat Amid Scorching Heat in Hajj Climax Jun, 16 2024

Muslim Pilgrims Ascend Mount Arafat Amid Scorching Heat in Hajj Climax

The sun bore down relentlessly as more than 1.5 million Muslim pilgrims made their way to Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia, the pivotal moment of the annual hajj pilgrimage. Battling extreme heat, the devoted congregants ascended the sacred hill, dressed in simple white garments that symbolize purity and unity. This year, the pilgrimage unfolded in the somber shadow of the ongoing conflict in Gaza. The heart-wrenching images and news from the war-torn region resonated deeply with the pilgrims, many of whom spent long hours in prayer seeking the divine grace for the suffering Palestinian people.

A Profound Moment of Devotion

The significance of Mount Arafat cannot be overstated. It is here that the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have delivered his final sermon more than 1,400 years ago. Arriving at dawn, the pilgrims climbed the 70-meter high hill, an act that holds profound spiritual meaning. Drenched in sweat under the sweltering sun, Muslims from every corner of the world came together, their chants of “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” echoing in unison. They prayed with fervor, their supplications merging into a collective plea for peace and mercy.

A Pilgrimage Rooted in Tradition

The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, mandates that all Muslims with the means should undertake this journey at least once in their lifetime. It is a demonstration of the faith's unity and an essential rite that follows the Prophet Mohammed's final pilgrimage. However, this year, the rituals are performed against a backdrop of rising temperatures and escalating political tensions. Saudi Arabia has issued stern warnings against political activities during the hajj, yet the palpable support for Palestinians could not be contained.

Support for Gaza

The plight of Gaza has been a central theme throughout this year’s pilgrimage. In a significant move, about 2,000 Palestinians were invited to perform the hajj by Saudi King Salman himself. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's message urging support for Gaza only added to the fervent prayers and discussions among the pilgrims. Despite the societal and political admonitions, the sense of solidarity with the Palestinians was unmistakable.

Climate Challenges

Climate change has rendered the hajj more challenging than ever before. With regional temperatures climbing steadily—0.4 degrees Celsius each decade—the desert heat becomes an ever-greater obstacle for the millions of pilgrims. This year, temperatures soared to 43 degrees Celsius, and Saudi authorities were quick to advise pilgrims to remain hydrated and protected from the sun's fierce rays. In the previous year alone, over 10,000 heat-related illnesses were recorded, underscoring the urgent need for precautionary measures.

Rituals of Faith

Following their profound time at Mount Arafat, the pilgrims will progress to Muzdalifah. Here, under the starlit sky, they will collect pebbles for the ritual 'stoning of the devil' in Mina. This symbolic act, performed on the following day, recreates the defiance of Satan's temptations. Each step of the hajj is meticulously organized, mirroring the Prophet Mohammed’s path and experiences.

The hajj is not just a journey of physical pilgrimage but one of deep spiritual significance, bringing together Muslims in a fusion of faith, unity, and mutual respect. The Al Saud dynasty recognizes and upholds the importance of the hajj within the Islamic faith as a vital source of legitimacy.

Concluding the Pilgrimage

As the sun sets on another day in Saudi Arabia, the pilgrims wrap up their prayers, their hearts full, their spirits lifted. The hajj is more than an act of devotion; it is a transformative experience that renews faith and fosters a sense of community that transcends borders and politics. With every prayer whispered on Mount Arafat, the hajj pilgrimage continues to be a beacon of faith in a troubled world.

The recent hajj, underscored by extreme temperatures and geopolitical tensions, reflects both the resilience and adaptability of the Muslim faith. Despite the numerous challenges, pilgrims from across the globe convened in a testament to their shared belief and traditions. As they descend from Mount Arafat to Muzdalifah and subsequently to Mina, their journey serves as a reminder of dedication, faith, and the enduring human spirit.